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Stating your Position in a Negotiation

Agreeing and disagreeing

In a negotiation it’s important to be able to state your position, act with confidence and show clearly whether you agree or disagree with your counterparts. It’s also important to show how strong that agreement or disagreement is.  And it’s also an advantage to be able to recognise the signals the counterparts are sending out to you.

Here’s an internal negotiation between the international Sales Managers John, Eva and Hans. They are sending signals to each other, that many non-native speakers would not understand – or be able to use. Let´s decode them for you! Look at the underlined phrases to see how they agree or disagree with each other and send those signals.

John: Right, the next point on our agenda is the arrangements for the Trade Fair in London. How big should our stand be and how many of the Sales Department are needed to man it?

Eva: We don’t want to make the same mistake as last year and have more staff than potential customers, do we?

Hans: I don’t see it that way. We need the possibility to deal with several people at once.

Eva: Yes, but on the other hand we have to think of the costs.

John: I tend to agree with you there Eva. How many were we last year?

Hans: Ten I think – but I can’t help feeling we need about the same number again.

John: I can see your point of view but remember it’s proposed we’ll have a slightly smaller stand this year.

Hans: How big?

Eva: I suggested fifty square metres rather than seventy.

Hans: No way!  That’s much too small.

John: I’m afraid we’ve got to cut costs.

Hans: I accept that but isn’t this false economy.

Eva: No, I don’t think so. Actually we’ve got to save 10% on this year’s budget.

John: Absolutely. That’s right. I’m sorry.

HansWell, I have reservations about this approach but it seems I have to go along with it.

Eva: Look, I share your concerns but that’s the position.

John: And in principle I agree with you too. Perhaps we can change it back next year.

Hans: Ok. I’m not totally convinced but I’ll go along with the decision.

If you analyse the language the three people used you can see that they expressed their agreement at different levels.

Occasionally they showed strong agreement or disagreement:

“No way!” “Absolutely” “That’s right”. Sometimes it’s necessary to be firm and very direct – if you feel strongly about an issue. Or you may know the other people very well and do not need to be too polite.

At other times the agreement or disagreement was more neutral:

“I don’t see it that way” “But on the other hand” “I’m afraid” “I don’t think so”. This more neutral approach allows for a pragmatic discussion without strong feelings being shown or causing offence.

And sometimes the agreement or disagreement was mild:

“I tend to agree with” “I can’t help feeling” “I can see your point of view”, “I accept that but”…, ”I have reservations about…,”I share your concerns”, “In principle I agree with you”, “I’m not totally convinced”, “I’ll go along with the decision”.

This kind of expression is used when you think someone’s feelings may be hurt or when you don’t feel very strongly about the question under discussion.

Eva and Hans also used “red light” signals to warn the listener that some negative information was coming next: Actually” and “Well” act like this.  Some other examples are: – “In fact” “To be honest” “With respect” and “Frankly speaking.”

 Giving a clear indication of the strength of your opinions helps your counterpart understand your position more clearly. You should also get used to listening carefully to the language they use too. It helps you to put yourself in your counterpart´s shoes and understand what they see as important for themselves.

Test

Decide whether the following statements are agreement or disagreement and then whether they are strong, neutral or mild. Remember that in reality tone of voice and the relationship between people can influence this.

  1. I disagree entirely.
  2. I accept that.
  3. That’s for sure.
  4. I’ve got a different opinion.
  5. I completely agree.
  6. I’m not sure about that.
  7. I don’t think so.
  8. I agree with you there.
  9. Are you kidding?
  10. I tend to agree.